Chinese companies have chosen the Canton Fair, China's largest trade show, to restore the battered image of "Made-in-China" after a series of product safety incidents attracted critical headlines across the world this summer.
The fair, which finished on Tuesday in the southern city of Guangzhou, was slated as a "perfect" chance for Chinese companies to restore buyers' confidence after scandals involving the export of lead-contaminated toys, substandard toothpaste and pet foods.
The U.S. toy maker, Mattel Inc., has staged several high-profile recalls of China-made products, 87 percent of which were found to have loose magnets -- a design defect from Mattel itself -- and 13 percent of which contained excessive lead.
"Although Chinese producers are not the only one to be blamed here, We are paying heavy prices. The effect is severe, and serious lessons need to be drawn," said Ju Jianwei, manager of the Jiangsu Overseas Group Co., Ltd, a state-owned trade and investment company in east China.
The Canton Fair gained 37.45 billion U.S. dollars in value of orders placed, a 2.9 percent rise compared with the previous session.
Steve Barek, President and CEO of the Florida-based Micro flock Textile Group Corporation, who had been to 12 sessions of the trade show, said he believed the product safety issues were sporadic, and most Chinese products are still favored over others for desired quality at the lowest prices.
There was growth in some categories, but noticeably the value of toy orders dropped by 10.7 percent to 900 million U.S. dollars compared with the previous session.
Industry analysts said the drop was mainly attributed to waning confidence in China-made toys. Chinese Customs figures also show September's toy export slipped 2.88 percent from August.
" We are trying to expel doubts and fears. We are doing more now, with tougher material control and stricter standard manufacturing procedures and more tests," said Zhang Chenhua, deputy general manager of Goodlin Toys Co., Ltd, a Shanghai-based toy exporter.
"At the same time, foreign technological standards are getting higher and more stringent. We really need to gear up for that and prove to the world that we are responsible companies and our products are still reliable," Zhang said.
Like Zhang, many Chinese companies are seeking to walk out of the shadows cast by the spate of product safety incidents.
"The recent food safety scare brought a lot of pressure, but we are doing everything to make sure no hitches happen to our products," said Zhang Jin, deputy general manager of Jiangsu Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Import and Export Group Corp, at the fair.
Zhang said his company had just got a "sizeable" order with a British supermarket at the fair, and that proves "we have been doing the right thing".
The trade show itself has also been tougher on product quality rules for participants, vowing to kick out or even revoke participation qualifications for companies found with product quality glitches.
Chinese government has committed itself to better product safety. It introduced a landmark recall system this summer, launched a four-month-long nationwide product quality campaign, and offered intensive training courses to domestic toy manufacturers.
Deng Xuqi, deputy director of the Guangdong Provincial Quarantine and Inspection Bureau, announced on Wednesday that the province has just wound up a month-long campaign specifically targeted on toys and food for exports.
Guangdong alone manufactures about 70 percent of the total Chinese toys made for export.
A 100-member team dispatched by the bureau discovered problems including substandard paint and loose parts in toys, after inspecting more than 2,000 local exporters.
The bureau said it has withdrawn production licenses from 423 toy makers, suspended the licenses of 341 toy companies, and ordered 690 others to improve their working practices.
Meanwhile, the bureau revoked the licenses of 160 food suppliers and exporters in the province. About 200 others have been ordered to suspend operation until they have cleaned up their act.